Scary but true. Otto, an Uber owned start up, just sent 50,000 cans of beer 100 miles through Colorado on the back of a truck. With no one at the wheel!!!
In the early morning hours of October 20th 2016, an 18 wheel tractor trailer pulled into Colorado Springs bearing 50,000 frosty cans of Budweiser beer. Normally, this would not be a noteworthy occurrence, but this truck was driving itself, making it the first time that commercial cargo was shipped by a self-driving vehicle
The journey began 120 miles away at an Anheurser – Busch facility in Loveland, Colorado. The truck, a Volvo big rig equipped with cameras and sensors was one of five owned by Otto, a San Francisco based self-driving company acquired by Uber in August. A human driver piloted the truck to a weigh station in Fort Collins. From there, it drove 100 miles without human intervention to Colorado Springs with the driver monitoring the two hour trip from the sleeper berth. But once it entered the city limits, the driver took control.
Colorado transportation officials were briefed on the shipment and helped plan the route. A state patrol vehicle followed the beer laden truck from a distance to monitor the journey. The truck maintained an average speed of 55mph throughout the trip. The state patrolman who followed the truck said it was “super nice” to see a truck stay safely in its lane for most of the trip!
Otto started out with 40 employees, most of them from companies like Google, Apple, Tesla and Cruise Automation, with the goal of turning commercial trucks into self-driving freight haulers. I think they are serious about their aims; the head of the company was head of products for Google Maps for five years while his partner came from Google’s self-driving team
The truck that completed the delivery was equipped with two cameras for lane direction, a LIDAR sensor to create a 3D environment, two front facing radar sensors to detect obstacles and other vehicles on the road and a GPS sensor to help pin point the trucks location.
With 94% of fatalities caused by human error, self-driving trucks could lead to lower insurance premiums and higher fuel efficiency through the elimination of unnecessary acceleration. Drivers could catch up on their sleep on long haul journeys too.
While we all say that it wouldn’t happen over here in the UK. I guess they thought the same in the USA too. Planes fly themselves so why not trucks too.
So Tim, can we see this technology being used by Bishopsgate in the future? “One day perhaps. I can certainly see the technology being used to support the driver at the wheel but I just cannot see a truck being driven without one on UK roads. And remember, for Bishopsgate our work starts when our crews get to the site so I cannot see any changes in our operating model just yet”